Dozens of Teachers Arrested in Iran During Workers’ Day Protests

Iranian security forces arrested at least 28 teachers in the four days leading up to International Workers’ Day, between 28 April and 1 May 2022, according to the Coordinating Council of Iranian Teachers’ Trade Associations  (CCITTA).

Several activists from other labour sectors were also arrested or summoned before prosecutors in Iran ahead of May Day – while labour affairs reporter, Ms. Asal Mohammadi, was informed that an appeals court had upheld her one-year prison sentence.

Teachers have been at the vanguard of Iran’s labour rights movements in recent years, waging increasingly large peaceful protests throughout the country while demanding better pay and the release of their imprisoned colleagues.

Chants by teachers heard in various Iranian cities during the May Day protests this year included: “[President] Raisi you’re a liar; what happened to your promises?” (Mahshahr); and “Imprisoned teachers must be freed!” (Divandareh).

The protests, which have been sparking throughout the country for months, are strongly supported by Iranians, including civil rights activists.

On 30 April, imprisoned teachers’ rights activist, Esmail Abdi, announced in a public statement that he would be going on hunger strike to “protest the prosecution of trade union activists [held] on security charges and the increasing pressures on the families of imprisoned teachers and workers.”

Esmail Abdi, General Secretary of Iranian Teachers Trade Association (ITTA), is on hunger strike.  He has been in prison since 2016

Other groups in Iran that expressed support include the Iranian Writers Association, which in a statement declared “its support for workers’ demands” and expressed “solidarity with their quest to achieve their righteous goals, including the right to organise and exercise free speech without any barriers and exceptions.”

Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which mandates (in Articles 21 and 22) freedom of association and guarantees the right to form trade unions; the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, which guarantees (in Article 8) the right of workers to form or join trade unions and protects their right to strike; and the International Labour Union’s Declaration on Fundamental Principles, which also guarantees these rights.

Yet independent trade unions remain unrecognised, strikers are often fired and risk arrest, while labour leaders are regularly prosecuted under catch-all national security charges and sentenced to long prison terms.

Human rights campaigners have stated, “The determination of Iranian workers to voice their legitimate demands, despite the state’s relentless attempts to crush them, demonstrates the ever-growing urgency of their situation.”

CODIR has called upon the trade union and labour movement internationally to rally around, and stand in solidarity with, the detained Iranian trade unionists and teachers.  CODIR is calling upon all those standing for human and democratic rights to write letters of protest to the Iranian authorities, via the diplomatic missions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, demanding the unconditional release of their innocent counterparts currently languishing in the theocratic regime’s prisons and detention centres.    

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